Every child, anywhere, regardless of autism, acts a certain way for a reason. We don’t do things out of nowhere. Honing down those reasons are the key to helping a child overcome a behavior that won’t serve them in their adult years.
Let’s look at some common reasons people engage in certain behaviors so you notice what makes your child act the way they do!
Sometimes we do things because it feels good to do them. Even though soda is bad for us, when we drink it the taste feels worth it, or the energy it gives us feels good. Sometimes we know we shouldn’t do something but we do it anyway because it makes us feel something we crave.
For an autistic child they may involve themselves in sensory stimulation, like flapping, rubbing their hands on things and spitting. This behavior is self soothing; they do it because it feels good! You may see it occur more when the child is frustrated, bored or even excited.
If you could escape from a painful situation without consequence, instead of facing it head on, would you? Most of us would!
Autistic children are known to bolt (they call it eloping now, officially) they run from situations, they hide under tables and do anything they can to escape doing something. Sometimes that something could be as simple as putting their plate in the sink. It’s not always because of doom and gloom circumstances.
A client of ours loves to use this behavior, he has several places in the house he knows is hard for adults to get to and as soon as you ask him to do something unpleasant (like chores) off he runs to hide under the bed.
There are other ways to escape situations like violence and yelling.
Children do this when they don’t want to engage in something. Maybe that something is boring, scary, annoying or too hard for them.
Yup, people do things for attention. This is a difficult one for some people to understand because it has such negative connotations wrapped around it. It shouldn’t, ‘attention seeking’ is just communicating that you want someone’s attention in the wrong way.
This is probably my middle child’s favorite reason to act out. He is a show star, he is loving, cute and by golly if he can be center of attention he will find a way! His autism (low empathy) means he often pushes children, hits them or bullies them so he can take their attention from them. It’s not about the child being a ‘bad kid’, this is just a child that doesn’t know how to say, “Hey I want a connection with you right now but I don’t know how to do it.”
Children do this when they want social interaction, or they want you to connect with them.
A few of our clients are obsessed with electronics. When it comes to trying to take them away the term ‘out of my cold dead hands,’ comes to mind. Sometimes children act out because they want something, plain and simple. They just don’t know how to communicate that want or they are terrified if you take it away they will never see it again.
This is the way that an ABA therapist looks at your child’s behavior, and a great thing to do for yourself as a parent. Sometimes putting meaning to situations helps us cope, and also gives us insight into how we can help our child in that moment.